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Some great riffs buried in monotony - 72%

BloodIronBeer, December 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

If you're a fan of death metal, Eric Rutan should not be unknown to you. He has carried over and developed the sound from Morbid Angel's Domination into his own band, modernizing slightly over time, and eventually producing Upon Desolate Sands. This of course entails that Tampa style death metal sound, with a sinister feel, ugly riffs that sound as tortured as they are angry, and a reliance on constant rolls on every piece of the drum kit. Eric's vocals strike me as a very low pitched yell rather than a normal growl, as they don't have the typical rasp and rattle.

The riffs are defiantly non-melodic, and embrace entirely that evil sounding dissonant aspect that has been more associated with black metal than death metal for many years now. The riffs remind me of an angry man stuck in molasses. You can feel the anger, through a muddy, thick production, and even at times when the music is on the faster side, it still feels vexed by it's own inability to go as fast as it would like. Yeah … I don't know where these analogies come from.

There is scarcely a drum part on this album that doesn't contain either a blast beat or a double bass drum roll. Sometimes the guitar refuses to move as quickly as the drum beat, and I find that annoying. It's not that the guitar has to always be keeping pace with the drum's rhythmic subdivisions, but it almost feels like they're never on the same page in that regard. Listening to this album reminded me that I always had this issue with the band – the wall of sound issue. The double bass rolls are so prevalent that is starts to sap the energy out of the riffs. The bass-forward production doesn't help, and the fact that the drums seem to overpower the guitar and vocals just means you will struggle at times to appreciate the riffs.

And the riffs are very good. Very good indeed. Even the more labored, trudging riffs that I don't normally care for, feel a little bit more potent here.

Highlights are Vengeance Striketh and All Hope Destroyed. Vengeance Striketh definitely has all the hallmarks of the Tampa sound, and All Hope Destroyed almost sounds like it wants to be technical death metal at times with some nice busy guitar work, and considerably more deviation from the drum parts – which frankly, is exactly the kind of thing this band needs to do more.

A better mixing job would improve this album a great deal – if the drummer is going to play the same thing constantly, he could at least do it further towards the back of the music. Sharpen up the guitar tone, and you'd improve it more. If they could break up the rhythmic monotony with time changes, accents or simply ya know, rests, you could potentially have a great album here.